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VIRUS LIKELY CAUSE OF MASS ILLNESS

The illness that swept through a high school volleyball tournament last weekend may have been a simple virus, according to an Erie County Health Department official.

Epidemiologist Jack Schwartz said Friday that the symptoms of the illness and interviews with players present at the Clarence Invitational boys tournament Saturday indicated that food -- initially considered a possible cause -- was not at fault.

He said the department had interviewed 173 students, and 60 were actually ill.

"The percentage is dropping (from the initial counts), but it's still significant," he said.

"But based on things such as the other illnesses right there at the games, it very probably was due to a viral type agent. Now we're seeing sibling spread."

In other words, it is likely the start of the fall-winter virus season. Schwartz said there was already a "background level" of the illness present in the area, and his office had received calls reporting many cases with similar symptoms -- vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness and headaches. He said the incubation period is usually 32-38 hours from the point of exposure, and the symptoms last about 24 hours.

"If it's of a 24-hour nature, don't be overly concerned," he said. "But if it continues for three days or more, people should probably see a physician."

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